Saturday, December 3, 2016

Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 7: Rock Never Dies

This episode is all about Lucifer, just showing that we can’t keep a good devil down. I would say that’s kind of understandable, I mean when you’ve raised the stakes (and ye gods does Supernatural raise the stakes with every season) you kind of need to hold on to a big epic threat and milk it for all it’s worth

I am torn though about where this episode is going

So Lucifer manages to come back and heal his decaying meat suite thanks to some teenagers happening to find a super powerful satanic ritual. Because of course they do. I’ve seen more convoluted inserts but not many.

So Lucifer is back in the body of aging has being rock star Vincent Vincenze and he’s deciding to have a come back with his band. Albeit with no music. It’s all about the popularity and having everyone worshipping him, lots of buzz with no substance

It’s like someone decided to write a subtle criticism of modern social media, actor and popularity based culture along with a whole celebrity class who are famous for no discernible reason. Except then they aggressively crossed out the word “subtle”

I mean, you have the expert PR person pointing out that hey I work for the devil? I’m in PR, that’s a step up. You have her excellent comment on how actually useful fame and social media presence actually is (you get buzz – but those people aren’t going to buy albums or concept tickets. A lot of social media “celebrities” don’t actually get a lot of cash in the bank). We get the truly disturbing image of a woman ready to kill herself carving his name into her body to prove her utter devotion and we have Lucifer’s excellent comment on how humans are utterly desperate to worship someone, to set someone on a pedestal above them – be it religious figures or rock stars. Humans want to worship

The commentary is good

But the way it falls flat as social commentary for me is that, by all accounts of the show, Vincent Vincente WAS a very popular rock star because of the music he produced. Sure he wasn’t universally loved – but the fact that Sam and Dean snark at each other constantly because Sam liked him (in an exchange which is perfectly brotherly awesome – I do love it when you can clearly see them as brothers). And, for all he’s causing quite a stir, the minute he has his come back gig and quite literally can’t play a single instrument it would all fall apart. This isn’t a famous reality TV show star or the Kardashians or any of the other infamous “what-is-this-famous-person-famous-for” personalities: his persona was based on delivering something rendering the whole commentary more based on how excessive buzz can get more than anything else.

The gang move in to stop him which has Castiel and Crowley being surprisingly hilarious together, Dean and Sam snarking eat each other. Also Dean hates Los Angeles but Crowley, unsurprisingly, is utterly in his complete element because where else can you find such a motherlode of people desperate to sell their souls in order to make it? This is Crowley’s place.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Teen Wolf, Season 6, Episode 3: Sundowning

The Wild Hunt is still up to their shenanigans, making another student disappear. Phoebe is gone and no-one remembers she ever existed except her sister – Gwen. Her sister who saw the Wild Hunt.

Which means she is next – unless the gang manages to save her. Which isn’t especially easily to do because even though Gwen lives in Beacon Hills she doesn’t believe in the supernatural and certainly not invisible memory erasing hunters.

How do they keep her safe? Follow her around constantly. And the people doing the following is the B team – Hayden, Liam, Mason and Corey. This will definitely not end well. Malia suggests they kidnap her. Scott says no. She insists. Scott says no. Scott ruins all her fun.

So why does this poor woman’s life rest on the B team? Because everyone else is much more involved with Stiles. His absence continues to leave ripples – especially as Malia is increasingly losing control and turns into a werecoyote during a test, much to poor Natalie’s concern who is so very much trying with all this supernatural stuff. Sherriff Stilinski deals with a coyote at school by encouraging Scott to growl at her. While Lydia much more sensibly suggests they get out of her territory and giving her chance to turn back. Lydia always talk sense

As they talk about Stiles in front of Sheriff Stilinsky, he fills in some gaps. Stiles is a family nickname, last used by the Sheriff’s dad. Of course, Scott & co want to speak to him and the Sheriff is vehemently opposed. Viciously, furiously opposed, quite surprisingly so.

Despite the normally very calm sheriff’s vehemence and talk about the fact he hasn’t even seen his dad in years, of course the gang decides to break in. And Malia decides to punch a nurse

Because she’s Malia. And so much fun.

They do find Stilinski senior who has advance dementia. And isn’t that nice. Questioning him isn’t very productive but Lydia pulls some useful tricks which if they were this consistently useful would be revolutionary for all the people suffering from this terrible condition. Using this very convenient clarity they discover… that Stilinski senior is actually a really really really really horrible person.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Dreams Shadows Cast (Apocrypha: The Dying World #2) by Barbara J. Webb

Miroc has been saved from drought but the underlying questions remain – where are the gods? Where did they go and why did they abandon the world and their children within?

The city also is still under threat- Ash, Syed, Iris – everyone is desperately preparing as much as they can for when the Shadows return; the nearly undetectable creatures who can possess people and are trying to bring about the end of the world.

But even this can be displaced when the Jansynians discover something impossible – and need Ash’s magic to try and decipher. The revelations there could shake everything they know about their society.

Ok, frustration moment in a sea of awesome… why did we go here?

No, seriously, I loved the world revealed to us in the first book. I loved that book. I still love that book. That book is awesome. The world is awesome. I love the idea of the 13 gods, an entire society built not just on the belief of those gods, but the tangible existence of those gods, their powers and their blessings. This is a society where praying for rain was literally a sensible form of irrigation. And then those gods disappear – causing both the horrifying impact of the complete devastation of having the entire world’s faith, their entire foundation of belief, identity and how things are be completely ripped from them. A life and reality that they not only believed, but had objective evidence that that belief is correct. On top of that the basic foundations of that society – the fuel and glue that makes their civilisation possible, has similarly being ripped away

This is an amazing world. This is perfect. I could spend 100 books (psst, Barbara, write! Write more!) reading this world. Especially since we have so much more because this excellent, amazing world has been delivered so sparingly – only the information we need to know to advance the plot. We have an awesome amount of information – but nothing excessive. Which means we have a vast amount of the world left to explore. I don’t even know the names of most of the 13 gods, let alone their roles or the creatures they sired. The hints we’ve seen point to these races not just being random humans that look different – but they have their own cultures, viewpoints, purposes that are crafted to be very different from human sensibilities. There’s some excellent world building there

So show me this – now this buried city and ancient past and mighty magic… it’s just nearly all very very very separate from the world that has already been revealed. But can’t we focus on what is here first? I want to see the gods and magic and trying to keep Miroc from imploding to seeing these different deity creatures. This story is excellent and I love it – but I’d love it more at book 5. Let’s revel in the world before shaking it down to its very foundations again, let’s see this world and what people believe before we decide to shake those assumptions.

Let me play in this aw

The Librarians, Season 3, Episode 2: And the Fangs of Death

Damn I forgot how cheap the CGI was on this series.

But we’re definitely building up a whole lot of epic confrontation with Apep still running around. Which is why, with the help of an apocalyptic dream, Flynn decides they have to find Charlene

Remember Charlene? She was there right from the beginning of the series, from the films itself.  The accountant and secretary of the library. Yes that seems a little odd that she would be the key to saving the world

Well, when they find Charlene – aside here. Can we not play “girl power” because Charlene has used some artefact to mind control several hot men of colour into becoming her objectified meat puppets. Swapping the gender on the rapeyness doesn’t make rapeyness good – can we not. Apep shows up to murder everyone and run off with Charlene

This freaks out Flynn and Jenkins and everyone asks, again, why Charlene is so important… well it turns out the accountant is a Guardian. Not a Guardian – she’s the Guardian. The First Guardian alongside the now gone Judd, the first Librarian. This is pretty epic in the first place, but later Jenkins reveals an extra reason why Charlene is essential. Way back centuries ago when Apep was first on his evil rampage (so presumably back in Ancient Egypt) he did manage to unleash the ultimate evil of badness.. This was bad

But Charlene and Judd managed to put all the evil back. But they forget to leave notes on how to do this. Librarians didn’t leave notes. Seriously Librarians. Seriously, you didn’t think to catalogue or this or something?

Since Judd is missing that means The Guardian is only one who knows this information

So there follows lots of risky meddling with Jenkin’s inventions (he disapproves) to try and track down Gloria. They get separated with Jenkins and Eve walking through the woods in Canada and being totally taken in by Apep pretending to be a super nice security guard (they live because Jenkins is immortal and that’s super useful).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hidden Blade (Soul Easter Series #1) by Pippa DaCosta

Ace, the nameless one, the Soul Eater, is cursed and enslaved. Banished from Duat, bound to his duty on Earth serving his master and reluctantly linked to a woman who mocks him every day with her presence, he doesn’t have a happy life. The one thing he does want to do is avoid the gods however he can

But when Bastet comes back into his life things get a little more complicated. Not least because she’s his ex-wife

Egyptian gods! Anyone who has been reading Fangs for any length of time knows we love ourselves some good mythology and, surprisingly, the Egyptians are oddly uncommon in the genre, I’ve found. Which is a shame because I’d love to dive into an Egyptian story

And here we have the Egyptian gods in a modern world setting along with a fun, action packed story. And I do really like the plot, the action is extremely well paced but it doesn’t consume the book to the point where it feels like there is no plot as can sometimes happen. I like the characters and their interactions, their complexities and temptations, their histories and difficulties. They work really well together and with the world they’re involved in.

But I find myself somewhat disappointed by that huge potential not especially being examined. What excited me about this was Egyptian gods in the modern world – that would have been exciting and interesting and deep and we could bring in lots of excellent mythology. But… we didn’t really see the Egyptian gods. Oh, Osiris and Isis are there – but they’re just mighty powerful evil people. You could have changed their names to be anything or anyone, they could be powerful mages, fallen angels, pretty much anything which is kind of depressing. There was no sense to me of them being actually Osiris or Isis. They were just the big powerful antagonists the culture, the history, the resonance behind what they are is missing

On top of that, I really dislike how Isis is portrayed – conniving and manipulative? I could accept that even if it is beneath Isis (the paragon wife and mother, the mother goddess, goddess of artisans and maidens and so much more) – but to have her sexually shamed – to have Osiris happily . To demonise her both through her sexuality (and her bisexuality for extra unpleasant tropiness) and using that sexuality as a classic marker of evil/depravity/immorality/corruption would be generally gross with any female antagonist – but to decide to do this with the actual lore around Isis and what she could have been just seems to add totally wasted opportunity on top of an utterly tired trope.

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 9: Changelings

This episode has a lot of shiny fairies in it, starting with Rumple tormenting one with his aging spell to send an ominous message to the gang – because an aging spell can be used to speed pregnancy and allow him to force Belle to give birth so he can run off with their son

This is Belle’s constant fear all episode as she is torn between trying to keep herself and her son safe from him while at the same time still trying to appeal to his humanity, to the man she once loved. It’s a really nice ongoing conflict as Belle still wants to have some level of faith in him but ultimately knows that he has disappointed her time and time and time again – and this time a child is on the line not just her own affections

Which is what the EQ continues to prod and poke. I’m not even sure what the EQ even wants any more. Her alliance with Rumple is fraught to say the least, whatever semblance of affection they seem to have for each other is completely overwhelmed by their mutual need to find each other’s most vulnerable, painful spots and just stomp all over them.

Rumple pushes EQ to kill Zelena, holding out the promise of his affections to her if she does – thereby having EQ throw away her one potentially real ally. Regina is around to save Zelena from murder (and that was the worst magic fight ever, one fireball, really) and poke some more at EQ’s sore spots – because EQ has the same longing, the same “hole in her heart” that Regina had when she came to Storybrooke. The same desire for love, family et al – and ironically throws away Zelena form the. But isn’t that the story of EQ/Regina? Or Rumple for that matter? In fact, also Hades and evil frost woman from the Frozen Fanfic we Do Not Talk About, even Peter Pan and David’s evil twin brother and Cora and Zelena… The story of evil on this series is one of people who COULD have family, who even do have family but they inevitably stomp on it and drive it away pursuing something or someone else. Most of the evil characters on this show are not unloved and do not lack the potential for love and to love – in many ways almost all of them have actively sabotaged their families and loved ones until they drove them away

Ultimately, it’s the recurring good vs Evil theme beyond the Charming’s fluffiness: good relies on friends, family, contacts, trust, allies. Evil has no-one to trust or rely on and rests only on their own power, whatever alliances they have inevitably crumbling under the weight of their own greed, ambition and suspicion. While that same inability to trust others leads them, especially Rumple, to be more insecure and seek more power. It’s a good theme and it’s really well maintained – good doesn’t win because it’s more powerful or more special or morally right or fluffier: good wins because it has all the resources of being a team, while evil stands alone.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Archangel's Heart (Guildhunter #9) by Nalini Singh

Lijuan has disappeared. One of the Archangels who controls the planet... leaving her territory apparently ungoverned

Which means the Luminata, a philosophical group who try to stay out of politics to seek a higher purpose to discuss what to do with the territory

But when the collected Archangels arrive, it appears the Luminata have lost their path – and what they’ve done touches intimately with Elena’s life, her past and her heritage.

I really liked the differing focus of this book. Most of this series we have had the main focus being on Lijuan and the epic conflict between the Archangel of death alongside the huge consequences of the Cascade. Lots of epic, lots of huge battling, lots of death and destruction and trying to hold things together in the face of literal world ending powers.

It’s epic, it’s huge and it’s nice to take a step back from that. It’s nice for us to remember there are more problems in this huge series than just Lijuan and even than just the Cascade. It’s also interesting to see the Archangels walk around and be the epicness they are.

I honestly expected them to arrive at the Luminata and face Lijuan. Or some epic power. Or some kind of major, terrifying power; something that would render the Archangels helpless. Or an Archangel civil war. In other words, another epic conflict.

But we didn’t go that route – we had legitimate investigations, we have research and exploration and character interaction and having no epic displays of megapowers and war. Which let us see more about the Archangels, more about the world and really exploring the interesting elements the Luminata brought. Which also allowed a lot of really excellent exploration of the Archangel attitude towards art, enlightenment, immortality, power, the value of humanity, autonomy, mind control powers, authority and the issue of what to do with an imbalanced Archangel council. I liked that, I liked that the step back allowed us to see these elements.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 11: Last Time

This episode fell flat for me, mainly because of the vast pit of my disappointment, but also because we have a huge amount of emotional drama I’m just not that pulled into.

I think the problem is that way too many of these characters have been banished a side characters – something I’ve criticised often and bitterly – that this big emotional brouahaha just hasn’t really hit home

Take Suzy – this episode everyone returns to Suzy’s parents isolated home where Suzy digs up a mega fuckton of daddy issues. Her mother is dead – and died before the uprising, her estrangement with her father meaning she was never even told her beloved mother was dead. Suzy makes her contempt for her abusive father super clear when they find her dad turned into a feral vampire and kill him

We’re only just being reintroduced to this character and I really don’t know why we have to drop a big abusive past storyline on her as a kind of character development – especially since we already have the shared history of her and Vanessa that could be built on. And the damn hints that they’re in a relationship – seriously they couldn’t develop that one 5 second moment to something more (especially after we saw Vanessa gleefully getting it on with hot guy last episode) rather than graft on this tragic past narrative.

Which is why all this very time consuming emotional narrative just didn’t pull me in. Parental issues is an overused cheap development trope. And an abusive childhood is something that needs far more time and depth than tis half-assed episode. And if they wanted me to care about what happens to Suzy they could have done a far better job developing her actual relationships

Yes I said “what happens to her” because she ends up dead. Yes, that teeny-tiny moment between her and Vanessa actually having a relationship will never ever become more and we’ve another show filed whose LGBT representation is a Quiet Portrayal, never to be mentioned again (almost inevitable when we have an LGBT protagonist if the show isn’t going to be about the Tragedy of Gayness).